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Showing posts from 2015

How Modi government in Gujarat used to give primacy to politics of vendetta over corruption

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By RK Misra*
Vendetta politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, and applying the wrong remedy, or so goes an oft repeated saying.
Cold Delhi was sizzled on December 15 as the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) sought to ‘marinate’ the Delhi Chief Minister’s Office in a controversial raid that saw temperatures soaring in Parliament and fingers pointed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for resorting to such a practice.

What lay behind Gujarat's top officials' recent "meeting" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi

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By RK Misra*
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, for this time it tolls nearer home. The resurgence of the Congress in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bastion of Gujarat during recent local body polls is cause for enough concern for him. This became evident when, a few days back, chief secretary GR Aloria, DGP PC Thakur and chief principal secretary of the chief minister KK Kailasnathan called on him in New Delhi.

Those occupying top positions in India resort to verbal exercise "unmindful" of insecurity gripping public psyche

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By RK Misra*
Tolerance may be troubling but arrogance annihilates.
The storm over the statements by the star Khans – Shahrukh then Aamir – fanned through televised debates and the abusive anonymity of the social media is troubling. What did they say that should make people yell bloody murder?

Gujarat CM suffers major setback ahead of results to the "all-important" polls to local self-governing bodies

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By RK Misra*
Even as Gujarat waits with bated breath for the results of the all important local self-government elections on Wednesday, the last three days have been harbinger of bad news for the Anandiben Patel government.

Government of India interference in dairy cooperatives, begun when Modi was Gujarat CM, now turns blatant

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By RK Misra*
To err is human but to really mess up you require a design committee of bureaucrats headed by a politician. How else would you account for the government’s approval to cheap import of butter oil that puts Indian dairy majors – largely it’s milk cooperatives – in an avoidable stranglehold at a time of glut conditions?

If BJP faces debacle in Gujarat local polls, Amit Shah may fulfill lifelong desire of becoming state chief minister

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By RK Misra*
More often than not, victory walks in on a bicycle when vanity is sanguinely sailing the skies. The cymbals have ceased and the soldiers are back in their camps: the one to savour success and the other to debate the debacle. But India, after the battle of the ballot in Bihar will never be the same again. A national political realignment has begun. Two crushing blows in a row – Delhi and now Bihar – has the garrulous Narendra Modi government  dumbstruck.

Bihar polls: Why desperate bid to impose fragmenting agenda after securing  a mandate for modern India?

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By RK Misra*
Mindsets chasing mandates have a maudlin mentality. They put band-aid on a cut finger when seeking power but amputate from the elbow when safely settled. And, all in the name of public interest. Headed by a modern day prime minister elected on a landslide development mandate ,the BJP still needs to fall back on crass communal polarization in the Bihar State Assembly elections, brings out its total bankruptcy of ideas.

Seventeen months in saddle, riding astride an overwhelming mandate, Modi government "loses" its way

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By RK Misra*
India today is a sitting duck. Like a turkey voting for an early Christmas. Let’s sample a recent day’s national headlines.
It no longer informs. It screams. Hatred in Mumbai. Violence in New Delhi. Fanaticism in Bengaluru. Punjab on the boil. Protests in Kashmir. Trucker killed in Udhampur over rumours of cow slaughter...

New Gujarat Land Law Triggers Fears Among Farmers in State

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By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2015, unanimously passed in the two-day monsoon session of the Gujarat state assembly – after Congress MLAs were suspended for creating a “ruckus” – is finally beginning to get national attention. The Bill is lying with President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, awaiting his final nod after the Gujarat governor, O.P. Kohli, sent it to Delhi for approval. According to sources, the risk-averse Kohli felt that its provisions needed “Central scrutiny”.
Gujarat Congress leaders met the President recently, asking him not give sign the Bill. They allege that it seeks to “hand over” surplus land – acquired during the land reforms days of the 1960s but lying idle since then – to industry and not to landless and marginal peasants. Taking a similar line, Gujarat-based farmer activists have begun pointing towards how the Bill seeks to do away with the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960, whose main purpose was to distribute s…

‘I translated “Saraswatichandra” because we have not done it for 128 years’

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The prominent Gandhi scholar Tridip Suhrud has taken on the task of translating the massive Gujarati classicBy Rajiv ShahThe great nineteenth century Gujarati classic, Goverdhanram Tripathi’s four-volume Saraswatichandra, is known outside Gujarat more through the well-known 1968 feature film starring Nutan, and the TV serial. Its first volume is now available in English for the first time, translated by the prominent Gandhi scholar Tridip Suhrud; the three other volumes will be published over the next year-and-a-half.
The 1,700-page novel is known more for its love story between the protagonist Saraswatichandra and Kumud, which fails to materialise, culminating in his marriage to her younger sister Kusum after his marriage with the widowed Kumud became impossible. But as Suhrud says in the introduction to the first volume, “The readings which privileged one story – the story of Kumud, Saraswatichandra and Kusum – as the principal theme and consider all other themes as unnecessary diver…

Gujarat BJP sans Modi: 30 meetings statewide stormed in fortnight, forcing leaders to beat hasty retreat

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By RK Misra*
Wounds bleed. They also stain. The Patidar (Patel) agitation which began as a blow meant to bruise Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel is now a bleeding wound with a spreading stain inching forward to sully the crispy kurta of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Maharashtra, Haryana may have banned beef, but are among biggest supplier of cattle to Bangla abattoirs

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By RK Misra*
He that sleeps feels not the tooth-ache. An India in somnolent slumber after voting for development in 2014 may wake up to find itself saddled with an archaic agenda riding astride a society in strife. For starters, take meat. As if on cue, state after BJP-ruled state has suddenly woken up to the overarching religious need for keeping meat and fish shops as well as abattoirs closed on Hindu and Jain festival days.

Gujarat No 1 in ease of doing business. Really?

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By Rajiv Shah
Gujarat is, again, No 1— assessed for “ease” of doing business. At least this is what a new report, titled “Assessment of State Implementation of Business Reforms”, is said to have made out by a World Bank report. The moment news broke out, I was amused, and decided to go to the source.
I visited the World Bank site, and found a small summary, prompting one to visit the Government of India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Policy (DIPP) site to download it. Initial remarks on the World Bank site were revealing: “This report captures the findings of an assessment of reform implementation by states, led by the DIPP, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, with support of the World Bank Group and KPMG as the knowledge partner, and facilitated by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).”
A clear effort of the government of India to “highlight” Gujarat model, this time with the hel…

How Modi ministers meekly lined up to deliver report card before Sangh Parivar top brass, faced tough questions

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By RK Misra*
Politicians and pundits enjoy floating pretentious bubbles when chasing power and pelf. Once in, the remaining time is spent either in denial, deceit or demagogy. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no exception. A political pugilist akin to Mohammed Ali, Modi as chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014 had also incorporated the one time World Champion’s classic slogan ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ into his style sheet.

Why Gujarat imposed mobile internet curfew during the Patel agitation

By Rajiv Shah
It was Wednesday, October 31, 1984. After finalizing the semi-left Link newsweekly, for which I worked then, the office driver boldly drove the Ambassador late at night through Delhi streets, which were already in the grip of anti-Sikh riots, erupted following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The driver squeezed his way through burning vehicles. At several places we could see houses in flames and heard painful, shrieking voices. It was a ghastly scenario, of the type I had never witnessed, or even imagined, before. I reached home, a middle class South Delhi locality; to my consolation all was quiet, though we had a Sikh neighbour.
My lovely daughter on that fateful day was just 21 days old. After taking my dinner, it befell on me to look after her, as she would refuse to sleep. I was still awake, and at 2 am, I found somebody knocking on our door. “Shah saheb”, the person who knocked the door loudly said. I immediately recognized his voice: We used to call him a “chadd…

Police action on Gujarat Patidars: Hushed whispers point to orders from Delhi to a well-placed official in Gandhinagar

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By RK Misra*
The demand of the Patidar (Patel) community for caste-based reservation under the Other Backward Class (OBC) category has led to turmoil in Gujarat. And there is more in store. The community is seeking statutory guarantees for government jobs and admissions to educational institutions despite being numerically very strong and economically quite influential.

The dye is caste in Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah
I think it was 1994 when I first met Japanese scholar Takashi Shinoda, an Indologist, during my routine visit to the Sardar Patel Institute of Economic and Social Research, Ahmedabad, at that time still known for some quality research. Once headed such academics of highest order such as DT Lakdawala and YK Alagh, the institute has since collapsed – at least this is what I learn from Gujarat’s academic circles, with whom I had developed good rapport before I was shifted to Gandhinagar to report on government affairs for the Times of India in 1997.
Unassuming, Shinoda took me to the institute canteen for tea, and told me of his latest area of interest – social mobility and occupational diversification of different castes over several decades. What he told me was indeed of great interest to me – that Gujarat’s “enterprising” Patels, who I thought till then were mainly a farming community, had still not overtaken the Banias in business. However, he underlined, “The way things …

Painful Patel punch: Gujarat is once again subject of major pilot project on social engineering, deliberate and planned

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By RK Misra*
Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it scum floats to the top. But those who do so must bear the burden of the stink. Both stirred and shaken, Gujarat is going through turmoil-filled days as its affluent and numerically strong Patidar (Patel) community mounts a fierce assault for other backward class (OBC) reservation that is straining the fabric of inter-community harmony to its tensile limits.

“Vulnerable” Gujarat Patidars, others agitate for reservation

By Rajiv Shah
As I was sipping morning tea the other day, an idea came to my mind: Why not ask the age of the young man who is said to be “leading” the current Patidar or Patel reservation stir, Hardik Patel – an agitation that has put Gujarat back on the national map after more than a year. In fact, ever since Narendra Modi left Gandhinagar to occupy the gaddi in Delhi, the view has gone pretty strong, at least in my media fraternity, that Gujarat has “lost its importance”. A few TV channels have even “withdrawn” their senior journalists from Gujarat, telling them that there is “no news in the state”.
I sent a message on WhatsApp, a facility I generally avoid using, to a young “pro-reservationist” leader in Ahmedabad, whom I happen to know somewhat. He promptly returned with his answer “23, I suppose”, and after a while phoned me up to tell me the “importance” of the agitation, which has spread from North Gujarat to Ahmedabad and Surat, engulfing “upper” castes as well – Banias, Brahmi…

Non-resident Patidars of UK, USA, Canada emerging as biggest supporters of Patel reservation movement

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By RK Misra*
The front is on fire and the back is burning. Quite literally.
Up in front, the country’s current Parliament session has gone up in smoke-logjam over GST, Land Bill and all. Down under, in the Prime Minister’s backyard, Gujaraj, a Patel ignited prairie fire – akin to the Gujjar reservation stir in Rajasthan – rages unhindered, threatening to engulf the government of his protégé, Anandiben Patel.

High on pronouncements and publicity, the Centre is lagging on most other parameters

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RK Misra* 
Politicians in power allure by denying and entice by delaying. Dangling bones ensure jumping ‘dogs’ and protean promises make for leaping ‘frogs’. And thereafter you have yoga for the masses, as if they haven't had enough.
Walk the talk has been a popular TV show hosted by a top print media editor, but talking while walking leads to breathlessness.

Displacement-induced development

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By Rajiv Shah
The year was 2012, when D Jagatheesa Pandian, a Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, was state energy secretary. Accompanied with two journalist colleagues, I dashed into his room on finding he had no guests to entertain. A seasoned official who became Gujarat chi
Yet, in 2012, GSPC’s “downturn” wasn’t yet visible, at least on surface. So, we asked Pandian our hackneyed question: Any other success in oil and gas exploration? First Pandian said, blushing, “I am no more GSPC managing director, why don’t you ask Tapan Ray?”, and then told us there was a “possibility” of finding a huge reserve in South Gujarat. “That’s big news, please give details”, I tried inquiring, to know the exact spot where the reserve was located. “Well, it’s too preliminary. It would be premature to write”, he replied. When I persisted, he gave me the location: the industrial town of Ankaleshwar, dubbed by environmentalists as one the most polluted in the country and the world, quoting Central Pollution Con…

Suspension of MPs from Lok Sabha is replication of Modi's undemocratic mindset during his rule in Gujarat

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By Shaktisinh Gohil*
What happened in Parliament yesterday was unprecedented event in the history of India – it was an effort to tarnish the country’s Parliamentary tradition. The ruling party has the primary responsibility to see to it that Parliament functions normally by holding constructive dialogue with the opposition.

Abolish death sentence! It is a barbaric act and not in sync with civilised society

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By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
So Yakub Memon was finally hanged to death early this morning (July 30th) in the Nagpur Central Jail! The 54-year old Chartered Accountant was convicted for the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts which took the lives of 267 people and injured many more. The team of lawyers defending him tried every possible option to stay the death penalty but to no avail.
President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon’s final plea for clemency despite a petition from several eminent citizens.

Forked Tongue and Flexible Factsheet: Was over 12 year Modi rule in Gujarat a byword for probity in public life?

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By RK Misra*
In fishing -- as in politics -- nothing is more ungainly than a fisherman pulled into the water by his own catch. Hurling muck from the safety of the shore and making it stick may have brought Narendra Modi to the helm of India in 2014 but the Teflon-coated frying pan is itself on fire today.
His government faces the filth of the Lalit Modi revelations, the bloodied Vyapam scam, and now the Madhya Pradesh Dental and Medical Admission Test taint.

Open official bullying of courageous human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand

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Romila Thapar, Admiral Ramdas, Naseeruddin Shah, Mahesh Bhatt, Nandita Das, Githa Hariharan, Aruna Roy, Jayati Ghosh, Rajmohan Gandhi, Tushar Gandhi, Vivan Sundaram, Nilima and GM Shaikh, Henri Tiphange , Sanjiv Bhatt and hundreds of other prominent artists, intellectuals and activists on recent "investigations" into misappropriation by Gujarat government and Government of India authorities Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand:
We express our profound dismay and disquiet at the continued official harassment by the central government of leading human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand. Since the installation of the BJP led government in Delhi in May 2014, the country has witnessed open strenuous official efforts to foist a large variety of charges of financial irregularity on them, to harass them, to tarnish their reputations, and to secure their arrests.
Fortunately the interventions of the higher judiciary have protected them so far. However the latest raids by the…

Blow Hot Blow Cold: How Modi promoted tourism to Gir's Asiatic lions in a recklessly peacemeal manner

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By RK Misra*
This June, the heat in Gujarat was such, that sweat soaked clothes faster than you could take them off. And when there was nothing left to shed, you still wanted to take off the flesh to sit in bare bones. A respite seemed in order. And I took off like a hare being chased by a dozen hounds.
So, from smouldering Gujarat to the cooler climes of Himalaya ringed Uttarakhand was a journey from the frying pan into an ice-pit. It was nature’s air conditioner, complete with climate control at work and the aroma and atmospherics of the mountains thrown in for good measure.

Govt must abandon its hostile and vindictive stance towards human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad, others

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By Dipak Dholakia*
CBI raids on July 14, 2015 at the premises of social activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, Gulam Mohammed Peshimam and office of Sabrang Communications and Publishing in Mumbai were undertaken for purely vindictive reasons, given the assurances of complete cooperation and submission of thousands of pages of documents to the CBI.

Those who say Jana Gana Mana was composed in veneration of King George V are parroting bogus allegations

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Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh recently created a huge flutter by demanding that the national anthem's wordings "Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jaya He" be replaced by "Jana Gana Mana Mangala Jaya He", because Adhinayaka stands for King George V. Well-known commentator Kanchan Gupta traces the origin of Jana Gana Mana to refute the argument*:
What is now the National Anthem of the Republic of India is the first stanza of a five-stanza Brahmo Sangeet or psalm.
It was composed by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore on December 11, 1911, in adulation of Param Brahma -- He who is the True, the Good, the Infinite; the Eternal Lord of the Universe; the Omniscient, the Omnipresent, the Omnipotent; the Formless, Changeless, Selfcontained and Perfect Almighty.
For the Brahmo Samaj, whose members adhere to Adhi Dharma, anchored in the dazzling enlightenment of the Upanishads, Param Brahma is the only Ishwar, the One Supreme Spirit, the Author and Preserver of our existence, the Etern…

Selfies don’t bring about change, reform does. So please try and be bigger than a photograph

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Well-known actor Shruti Sheth, in an open letter, reiterates her view that a tweet like #selfiewithdaughter does not change male bias towards girls. She was forced to go public after her tweet objecting to Prime Mnister Narendra Modi's tweet campaign on #selfiewithdaughter invited unprecedented hate reaction for about 48 hours. Now, she has asked Modi to condemn such hate tweets. Text of the letter:

Protest against Kanhar Dam in UP: Arrest of activists is illegal, meant to impose rulers' development agenda on people

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Statement by National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) on the arrest of Roma and Sokalo Gond, arrested in UP for protesting against the land acquisition bill:
The Government of Uttar Pradesh has showcased its commitment to anti-people policies and disrespect to peaceful and democratic expression of poor and marginalised people once again.

Ahmedabad has disgraced the nation if this story, sent as Facebook message, is true

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By Markandey Katju*Ahmedabad has disgraced the nation. The sender has asked me to delete his name:June 30, 4:51pm
I was on internship at Well Stimulation Services, ONGC, Ahmedabad, and was excited about the internship because of ONGC and Ahmedabad. It was going to be my first time in Ahmedabad.
I reached Ahmedabad, and liked everything, like ONGC, Ahmedabad city, etc.

Lest we conveniently forget: Heroes Vasant and Rajab walked the talk, died for a greater good

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By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
It is sixty nine years today since that fateful day of July 1, 1946. The traditional rath yatra - instead of being a day of bonding and harmony - resulted in a communal conflagration as both Hindus and Muslims went for the jugular: in a rioting spree and murdering one another.
Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani were good friends and also volunteers with the Seva Dal. Deeply disturbed with what was happening in the city, they were determined to do all they could to stop the venom, the fire and the killing from spreading.

Instead of seeking debate with public and in Parliament, govt chooses to pass laws first through ordinance

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By Kriti Sharma*
The real test of a government is its commitment to its very own people, the adivasis, minoritie, sexual or religious, women and dalits. Reference here is not to the politics of doling out that turns up election fever, but the ability to ensure a life of dignity, equality and just entitlement to nation's subalterns. The most controversial bill of this year the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Amendment Bill 2015, however, attempts to rob adivasis, small farmers and forest-dwellers of just that.

Nehru had said, "Who indeed could afford to ignore science today?" Modi Sarkar has proved Nehru wrong

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By PVS Kumar*
During the past one-year we have witnessed an unprecedented attack on scientific temper, rational thinkingand scientific establishment of the country. The assault has been four pronged:
1. Spreading and providing credibility to myths, superstitions, irrational beliefs among the masses;
2. Occupying spaces such as science congress, workshops and conferences and use the official and unofficial platforms for anti-science activities;

Education under Modi: Coercive exclusion of books, films, clothes, cultural activities perceived as inimical to 'faith'

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By Karen Gabriel and P K Vijayan*Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been reported as having stated, in an interview to Time magazine, that 'You don't need dictatorship in India, democracy is in our DNA'. Modi says, 'It is not just as per our Constitution that we are a democratic country, it is in our DNA.... I firmly believe that for us, democracy and belief in democratic values are a matter of faith.'
He apparently also goes on to remark that acceptance of all religions was 'in our blood':

There is very little likelihood that government hostility to civil society activism will end in the near future

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By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
Civil society activism is under attack in India as never before! A careful analysis of this past year clearly reveals that those who have accompanied the poor and the marginalised, the vulnerable and the victims of society have often to take up cudgels against the powerful and other vested interests; more often than not, it is also against the Government be it State or Central.

One year of Modi sarkar: Hate speeches, weapon with those thriving on politics of exclusion, galore

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By Ram Puniyani*
The coming to power of Narendra Modi in a way gave an open license to all the affiliates of RSS combine to indulge in open hate speech against the religious minorities. The current agenda behind the hate speech is to consolidate the communal polarization of the society along lines of religion. The well known case of MIM's Akbarudin Owaisi’s hate speech has been despicable and very rightly Akbarudin Owaisi had to be in jail for some time.

The Pope doesn't spare Catholic Church priests, calls upon faithfuls to engage on environmental issues

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By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
The long awaited encyclical on ‘environmental issues’ by Pope Francis is finally here! Released on June 18 in the Vatican, the encyclical is certainly not merely a defining moment for the Catholic Church but in fact for the whole of humanity. Entitled ‘Laudato Si’ (Praised be to you!) – ‘on care for our common home’, the first two words of a thirteenth century prayer written by St Francis of Assisi and called the ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ or the ‘Canticle of the Sun’.

Modi in his first year in office has led our nation into a long, blistering majoritarian summer

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By Harsh Mander*
Of all the major political parties seeking votes in the 2014 elections, the BJP, through its prime ministerial candidate, offered the Indian electorate perhaps the most cohesive, if troubling, vision for the country. Modi offered a combination of three fundamentalisms. First, a market orthodoxy which guarantees unprecedented levels of subsidies to big business in the form of long tax holidays, soft loans, cheap land and electricity, at the expense of public expenditure on education, health, social protection and public infrastructure.

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